Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Where were we?

... och, right: home.

The cake, the plane, and nothing itches... how did that happen? ...

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Home is where the heart is

I had mentioned a while back that one of the small ongoing projects is one with a colleague at work and an artist, Michelle Letowska. The title and theme of Michelle's project is that of home, people's needs and the urban environment.

Home is where the heart is:
Who are the people and what do they need?

Everyone will have his or her own idea of what are fundamental human needs, and the role that home plays in fulfilling our human needs. Human ecologist Alistair McIntosh has adapted Manfred Max-Neef’swheel of fundamental human needs to give parity to water, food, fuel, shelter, protection, participation, identity, understanding, creativity, transcendence and

As dwellers in cities, we are witness to, and interact with, theoutside structures which most people occupy –tenements, town houses, high flats, maisonettes, bungalows, cottages. What kind of homes do these external walls house? What kinds of homes do those without
external walls of shelter create? How do we live? How do others live?
How does the way we live reflect our human needs and ability to fulfil these? Where can we see that fulfilment in the structures of ourbuilt environment? When does a place become a home?

This project invites participants from across the department of Urban Studies (postgraduate students, researchers, support staff and academic staff) to explore these questions with each other. We invite you to contribute images, photographs, drawings or objects, madeor
found (anything at all!) that reflects your own experience of home. These items will be displayed, as a temporary and informal exhibition, in the coffee area of the department. The exhibition will be a starting point for a discussion on human needs, and the role we all play in providing these, for ourselves and for others.

It will take the form of a found objects exhibition in what is the commons space within our department. A much neglected communal space at the best of times. And that will be an interesting point in its own right.

Michelle (who has a blog at is interested in doing an Artist in Residence project within the department as this should be one of the first projects to explore this further.

With all my travelling back and forth and here and there and ensuing change of stuff I'm very intrigued by this project. It also resonates with a conference one of my friends is organising on Transit.

Currently, I'm favouring the following as temporary contribution:

My mother's layered apple cake. The favourite of all my grandparents' for Sunday coffees, my brother and I failed to see why. But here, the passing of time and some physical distance is rather productive in generating memories. It's currently in the oven in my favourite flat in Berlin, waiting for T. & I. to come back from a cycle tour, just needs some whipped cream and good coffee alongside it.

500g flour
20g fresh yeast
1 egg
80g butter
80g sugar
pinch of salt
1/4l lukewarm milk.

Make a yeast dough of the above, let it prove.

Take a (preferably deep) oven tray, roll out one half of the dough for bottom layer.

1.5 kg sharp apples, sliced and cooked with a bit of water, some sugar and a pinch of cinnamon.

Layer the cooked apples on top.

Roll out remaining dough, place carefully on top.

The top, before the cake is put into the hot oven (fan-assisted at 170C, 30min), is speckled with flecks of butter, some sugar and chopped almonds.

Bake. Smell. Let cool. Smell some more. Eat.

Home.... such a fluid concept.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Where am I?

ad 1. a train journey of ten hours leaves in one capital, travels through another to arrive in third
ad 2. in theory i should understand people here. in practice? don't ask.
ad 3. again and again i am thinking of auto da fe and the man without qualities. a hundred years in between don't seem to have passed.

that's quite a give away, i know... but here's some photaes too:

ach... empty promises. gesa, must learn mobile blogging better. next post then heh!?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Rarities... or not...

When I was growing up, it took me a long time to get used to my name. I didn't like it and would have exchanged it happily and favourably for Stefanie (don't I ask me why).

It doesn't lend itself to short forms - the best would be Gesa, Gese, Kaese (cheese) or more imaginately in Glasgow Goose... as in Gese, Geese, Goose... Wow... a well of creativity. [and just two weeks ago my dad told others the story how it was their intention that none of our names could have short forms... again, don't ask me why!]

But: it is rare. Until I was 26 I never met another Gesa. I usually always knew of another Gesa, but never actually met her.

Then I was at a party of my new flatmate. Fifteen people and among them, three Gesas - and every time someone said Gesa, they didn't mean me. How bizarre.

Now... my email turned up this, this morning... and I. can marvel now at my strange collection of facebook friends (my clan of online vampire gamers... jaja, the things, curiosity gets you into).

This is decidedly funnier:

Gesa Helms is going to be friends with Gesa Helms.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

How come?

In colour. Blue. 40x40cm (WIP, I think)
Soft pastel/acrylics on canvas

... that my abstracts are always ending up seascapes?

Don't have a clue!

This is in fact an abstract interior still life, in case anyone is asking.

And just to add to confusion: it's pastel on a 3D canvas, over pumice, gesso and acrylics. Oh, and its first incarnation, this hosted a rubbish landscape in oil from a few years ago.

I let it mature a bit and see if I can sort out the composition a bit more.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

In colour: squares

Having arrived back home on Monday night, I quickly realised:

I could do a paired series to the White Room.

Simply not of someone else's flat somewhere but of mine now. No: it's not that I 'could' do this. There's little choice, I feel. I simply have to. The start:

In colour: square 1, 10x10cm, Soft pastel on board

In colour: square 2, 10x10cm, Soft pastel on board

In colour: square 3, 10x10cm, Soft pastel on board

Sunday, 6 September 2009


... let's finish on a high.

Yesterday was such a high, so it's quite fitting. It is also quite fitting seeing that today is the last day among the heather and the birch, and it's almost the last day of my summer in Germany. I will spend another day with I. in Berlin and then I'll be back in Glasgow.

About this time of year I will begin to really long for painting to start again: I'm getting bored with the many quick sketches and would want a studio space with some oils, with Irene, Tom and Chris and Irene's Saturday morning coffee and biscuits.

Hm. This won't happen this year. Along with the heather, birch and summer ending, my two visible main constants for the past 10 years will radically shapeshift. - I thought about them 'ending' but that's not strictly true. They may become a bit unrecognisable, though.

But it's all good and all part of my resolution to take serious the things and people that need taking serious. This blog, Irene and much else that has been part of the past five years will belong to that. Another part of that is going to be to undo some of the distance of the past ten years. So, I'm very much looking forward to I. & Gesa's 'How was your summer 2009, dear' video session this evening or tomorrow morning. Because the summer was good, very good indeed.

Well... and this blog really works best when it has some art attached to it, I think. But, with all the change there won't be much art over the next 2-4 months. What this will mean for the blog, I don't quite know yet: I'm far too fond of it, to let it disappear; but I also know that it works best for me, if I write frequently; yet: without much art in the making, I worry about what else I will find (and I will usually find something) to write about... so, it's a bit uncertain: silence? infrequent posting? hopefully not too much ranting or head-up-backsideness...

There are two small projects on the go... a book illustration and a research/art experiment in my department. There are also more thoughts on the White room and other bits and pieces... but I'm unsure about the time, enough headspace and calmness for giving them the space they need, thus: all of the above.

Wish me luck. Take care. And hope to catch you some time soon!

Did I mention the high? Two of them, in fact:

1. Gesa gets to see de Stael's art in real life. Two of them at once even. Two late landscapes at once even. Ohohoh.... circle, circle, circle around the two small pieces, sketch them, touch them (unfortunately: behind glass), and sneak some photos. ... They aren't good, the photos - well, in fact: they are positively rubbish... but I've seen them irl, so they suffice :)

Nicholas de Stael, Face au Havre, 1952
oil on board, Sprengelmuseum Hannover

Nicholas de Stael, Paysage 1952,
oil on canvas, Sprengelmuseum Hannover

How exciting.

2. Oh, and then some fireworks at night for my dad's birthday outing.
Happy birthday, Karsten... and a very good year! But I think the year has been good so far for you too. And I'm glad.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Klaus Fussmann and abandoned houses

Following our landscape excursions on Sunday and Thursday, I went to the museum from where my parent's had sent me the catalogue of Albert Koenig's prints (mainly woodcut).

Koenig's landscape representations from the 1910-1940s caught my eye when they seemed so traditional and eery - old trees, woods and heather. He did many of those in the surrounding areas of the heathland we walked and cycled through. - The area is characterised by a particular geological formation - Kieselgur, which google suggests to translate as diatomite - which was industrially exploited... for making both filters and dynamite. (Wiki knows more about Kieselgur in German)

But we weren't in luck at the Museum with Koenig's work. Instead, there was an exhibition by Klaus Fussmann. - A retrospective full of interior still lives, gardens, a few landscapes and a few portraits.

And I begun to fill my gaps (in fact: a wide open void) on German contemporary art. And went back to take another look at this interior drawings and paintings a few days later.

Many of them were done in the (early) 1970s of abandoned Berlin flats and his studios. What a very good coincidence: I could explore still life of interiors a bit more; explore the wide range of yellow-beige via reddish beige to cool blue beige; and contemplate Fussmann's paintings in their quiet melancholy and the meaning of time, memory and emptiness.

Klaus Fussmann, Atelier Steinmann, 1970
gouache, pencil and coloured pencil on board
private collection

I didn't know his work before, but was taken by this stark contrast between those empty rooms and overflowering gardens... the passing of time and all things living. I'm intrigued (if not entirely convinced) by this juxtaposition and marvel at the riches of the German language - Vergaenglichkeit was the word used - and struggle to find translations. How about :

transitoriness, evanescence, transience, transiency

... they all seem a bit flat, not quite melancholy and yet joyfully enough.... strange that...

[but I've wondered about this for long enough to know that that flatness is sometimes not more than a lack of experience and connotation assembled around a particular word]

For more info on Fussmann, try these gallery sites

White, empty and Berlin are the connections to the White Room. More I haven't found yet. His interiors are often arrangements on tables or shelves, of bowls, vases and assorted small, white things.

In all his interiors, he paints from above. He is looking down on the objects, or even the entire rooms. It's an interesting incident. It gives him a wide perspective and it makes the objects look even more forlorn and surplus. The paintings which depict a whole room look as if painted from a high ladder. It makes for an interesting assortment. While the table arrangements are often very monochrome, the rooms have the colour of some chairs, a cloth or a jacket.

I find the paintings very strong. Very different to the quiet, joyful assemblages of trickery that Morandi rearranged throughout his lifetime on tables, these are tristesse on canvas. They are left over, forgotten, only to be found by Fussmann who rearranged them into some order and captures them in their forgottenness. Momentarily, for a final snapshot of what is left.

I'm taken by the act of a final recording, taking stock of what has been abandoned. The painter as archivist, as record keeper. Of material objects that are left.

Klaus Fussmann, Stilleben Käuzchensteig, 1974
oil and gouache on board,
private collection

Friday, 4 September 2009

Birch, heather, clouds and...

Yesterday, we went again to one of the heathlands nearby. We were there already on Sunday and my dad and I decided to go back with bikes, sketchbook and his friend. Them for cycling, I for drawing.

So, I had a couple of hours, inbetween rain showers and fast moving clouds for a bit of sketching and a bit of cloud gazing.

My mom when leaving: 'And you don't worry about bad people you may meet when you're on your own, Gesa?' - No, generally not, despite all the scare stories about the dark and moody heathlands, they are familiar ones.

Schmarbecker Heide
Schmarbecker Heide,
Pastel in A4 Moleskine

But... in this case, I indeed better should. The nearest village? Gerdehaus. And Hetendorf isn't far either. Any more info you need? Try, this indymedia site here. Oh yes, the heather, the birch, the oak and our soil. And Nazi squatters.

They make me wonder if I do not misunderstand my field obsessions... looking for change and movement - it may be after all simply be about tradition, stability and something that hasn't changed all that much in over 70 years. And I have to think again of the so familiar euphemisms in use by my grandparents' generation to talk about their past.

Well: how to live among the fields, the heather and the woods?

Kieselgur Pond, Schmarbecker Heide